Driving the Icefields Parkway to Jasper

Driving the Icefields Parkway

Icefields Parkway is one of the most beautiful drives in the world. In the summer, the road-side lakes shine turquoise and make for good swimming and photo opportunities. There are a lot of places to stop, but here were my favorites from South to North (Banff to Jasper).

1. Bow Lake (51.682188, -116.462030)

Bow Lake is a quick stop right off the highway. Most people just get out of their cars and take a few photos, but if you're feeling brave you can wander to the side of the lake and jump in! Be warned - the water is very very cold :)

Peyto Lake

2. Peyto Lake (51.719854, -116.494453)

Peyto Lake is the famous lake that looks like a cute fox. The hike up is less than a mile to the famous lookout of the lake. If you want to do the entire hike, it is 3.8 miles round trip. Peyto Lake is also a very crowded spot so try to head out early before the tour buses arrive.

3. Mistaya Canyon (51.949523, -116.712405)

Mistaya Canyon is a quick pull out and 5 minute walk from the highway. It's very developed and you have a clear path to check out the canyon. I've seen some Instagrammers take photos right next to the waterfall and thought it was a natural view point. But it's really dangerous and there are actually bright yellow signs warning people not to cross over the boundary. The rocks are super slick and the water is flowing so fast that if you slip you'll be in trouble!

4. Athabasca Glacier area (52.219591, -117.224786)

But only if you need Wi-Fi ;) The place is a huuuge tourist trap. If your idea of being outdoors is similar to mine, you won't enjoy the glacier. It's very guided, very crowded, and very developed. You can take a quick view to see the glacier, but the real glacier experience is through tours. The visitor center was a mess and we had to spend 15 minutes to find parking. It's only a good spot to get Wi-Fi for things like connecting to Google Maps. Also it's one of the only flush toilets you'll have on the Parkway!

5. Sunwapta Falls (52.532352, -117.646875)

Sunwapta Falls is a good spot for lunch. There is a cafe that has relatively reasonable prices. You can eat in the cafe or take it as a picnic to the falls. It's a short walk and generally a nice place to enjoy. 

Athabasca Falls

6. Athabasca Falls (52.668966, -117.881713)

Athabasca Falls is another good waterfall spot. The water is so powerful that it's really fun to stand and watch :) There's a great view of the mountains behind too.

7. Horseshoe Lake

20 minutes before you get to Jasper, you'll see a relatively unpopular turn out called Horseshoe Lake. It's a very popular spot to go swimming and cliff jumping! The cliff is around 15 feet and there are even higher ones further into the lake. It's a good spot to stop for a mid-afternoon swim before you reach town! Our timing worked out great and once we stopped to swim here, it was dinner time :)

8. Maligne Lake

While you're in Jasper, don't forget to check out Maligne Lake and the famous Spirit Island. We canoed Maligne Lake for about 8km until we got stranded by a thunderstorm/lightning that turned us around (ps - you're completely on your own out there! bring safety gear and read up on lightning safety in case you get stuck like we did). We opted for the boat tour after drying off and had an amazing time. The boat tour operators are very knowledgeable about the area (we learned a lot!) and the Premium tour gives you 30 minutes on the relatively empty island.